The Economy of the Future Won’t Rely on Money
Conventional currency will one day be regarded as an ancient religion we outgrew
Stefan Heidenreich believes that some day, money will seem like an ancient religion. In his recent book Money: For a Non-money Economy, the German philosopher and media theorist speculates on how the money-based global economy could soon transition to an entirely different system based on the algorithmic matching of goods and services. Such a system could match people with what they need at a given moment without relying on the concept of a stable, universal price — and, just possibly, do away with the vast inequities caused by the market.
If you find the idea of an economy without money hard to imagine, you’re not alone. As the saying goes, it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. But that very difficulty proves Heidenreich’s main point: We have to imagine what may sound like wild possibilities now in order to steer the future before it’s upon us. Getting rid of money could lead to what he calls a “leftist utopia” of equal distribution — or it could enable mass surveillance and algorithmic control on a whole new scale. Faced with the second option, Heidenreich says, we have no choice but to try to envision the first.
This interview is an edited version of several conversations.
Medium: Your book is a speculative proposal for a future global economy based on matching, rather than money. What is matching?
Stefan Heidenreich: Matching is at the core of any economy. Matching people, things, and abilities with each other is a daily, simple, constant economic task. People need places to live, so people have to be matched with houses. The economy is the way they get matched. In the current, money-based, market economy, money determines a match, and under this system the matching is often incomplete. There are plenty of empty houses where nobody lives because they’re being used merely as investment vehicles. Houses are being matched with money instead of with people.
Most of the distribution problems we have can be mapped onto matching problems. How we choose to solve them is a…